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November 2, 2012

Pitt coasts in final tune-up before regular season

J.J. Moore and Talib Zanna led the way with 13 points apiece, Travon Woodall dished out eight assists, and Pitt raced out to a huge lead before coasting to a 77-45 victory against Division II opponent Hawaii-Hilo Friday night at the Petersen Events Center.

After opening with an 8-0 run, Pitt led 22-4 less than 10 minutes into the game en route to a much easier exhibition win than the one over IUP last week. The Panthers were simply too athletic for the over matched and undersized Vulcans, outrebounding them 45-31 and outscoring them 48-10 in the paint.

But if you ask Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, he'll tell you the dominant result was more a result of the team's work ethic than the quality of its opponent.

"They've worked really hard. Our guys have worked really hard," Dixon said after the game. "I'm happy with them. It hasn't been perfect, we're still trying to get better and they know that, they're trying to get better. But they've worked really hard. It was a tough week for us and they got after it but they responded well."

The Panthers scored 27 points off 24 Hawaii-Hilo turnovers and shot 44.8 percent from the field, including 4 of 14 from the three-point range.

Jamie Dixon started the same lineup as in the first exhibition - Steven Adams, Zanna, Lamar Patterson, Woodall, and James Robinson - with a primary second unit of Dante Taylor, Moore, Trey Zeigler, Cameron Wright, and John Johnson. Redshirt freshman Durand Johnson also played 10 minutes off the bench.

Despite the consistency in the starting five, though, Dixon said he's still far from decided on a permanent rotation.

"I think right now they're the best defenders. I think James and Tray have been the best guard defenders...but I don't anticipate that being the starting line-up the entire year, not at all," Dixon said.

He also added that Adams, the highly-touted freshman center, and Taylor, the senior big man, are currently "neck and neck" for a starting spot.

Adams finished with six points - all in the second half - and 10 rebounds in Pitt's final tune-up before the regular-season opener against Mount St. Mary's next Friday. Taylor chipped in eight points and seven rebounds in four less minutes of action.

"He's too unselfish, is really what it is, that's what we've got right now," Dixon said in reference to Adams. "He falls into one of those guys when we talk about unselfishness, but that's a good thing. That's a good thing to start with."

The Vulcans, at least, gave Pitt a chance to practice its zone offense. Once it became apparent the visiting team wasn't going to be able to stay with the Panthers man-to-man, Hawaii-Hilo played a 2-3 defense most of the game.

"It was a little slow, it was like we were walking like we hadn't played against it," Dixon said of the team's execution against the zone. "I thought we were a little slow bringing it down, walking it up, we've just got to flow into it."

Even though the Panthers extended their lead in the second half, the offensive execution wasn't quite as crisp as it was early on - six of their eight turnovers came after the break.

The good news, however, is that Dixon's three point guards -- Robinson, Woodall, and Johnson - combined for 15 assists to just one turnover.

"All three of them are playing well, and you can look at the numbers," Dixon said. "And I think they're defending pretty well, too."

"We've just got to keep them getting better and that's what they're doing, so I'm really excited about them. I really feel like we have three good point guards at this point."

Perhaps most important for the Panthers, they managed to get through the two-game exhibition slate unscathed. Taylor hobbled off the court after taking a fall in the first half but returned to the game without any lingering effects.

Notes: Walk-on junior forward Aron Nwankwo and freshman guard Chris Jones were again the only Panthers in uniform not to see any minutes...Taylor was called for a technical foul in the first half for making a gesture after a dunk...Pitt shot 59.1 percent from the free-throw line for the game but made 7 of 8 from the stripe in the second half.


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